Of all the possible fusion genres possible for a movie one that has incredible potential is the blending of science fiction and horror. Going back to the thirties ‘Frankenstein’ merged these two popular types of movies with a result that was considered shocking at the time. The usual template for this kind of story is to take the prevalent fear that has a grip on the collective consciousness of the society and tweak it to an extreme using Sci-Fi as a foundation. In the fifties ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ to the McCarthy era fright over communist taken creating a science fiction classic. Then the predominant fear was radiation. Once the nuclear genie was out of the bottle atomic energy became the symbol of s bright future and dreaded as the means to destroy the world and mutate our bodies to hideous monsters through radiation. Currently the subject of great concern in our culture is the incredible advances in the field of genetics. Like the other forms of technology that held this cinematic position previously genetic progress holds amazing promise to ease suffering and make for a longer more enjoyable life. Of course a warm and fuzzy prognosis is not conducive to creating as good horror flick so most film makers tend to concentrate on the worst case scenario. Of course there is a long way between insect and disease resistant crops and human-animal hybrids of creating completely new sentient species but the thing about irrational fear; it is extremely potent and by definition does not need a fully verifiable basis it just has to be scary. One of the most recent examples of this venerable methodology is a solid piece of entertainment; ‘Splice’. It is a movie with some technical flaws both in the science and the cinematic presentation but considering the vast majority of horror flicks are now either training films for the next Inquisition of satires of the genre. Slash and dash movie featuring copious quantities of blood, guts and the ever popular gratuitous nudity have all but destroyed the genre. Sure all these elements are in Splice’ but it is not the sole focus of the movie. Unlike most horror films around today this film has an actual plot; a story that fosters character development within an interesting set of circumstances.
The first thing that sets this movie above the pack is the script written by Antoinette Terry Bryant and Vincenzo Natali. This is an initial opus for Bryant but Natali has some interesting films as both writer and director. One of the most notable is the 1997 cult classic, ‘Cube’, the original not the less than memorable sequels. That film was a great little experiment in terror based on the innate human fear of isolation and abdication of control. In Cube he examined the duality of human nature; self serving versus altruistic with ‘Splice’ Natali goes off on a different tact in his examination of some other aspects of what is means to be human. This is the essence of the horror here and an important factor to the workings of the film. It has long been a function of science fiction to hold a dark mirror up to society using robots, aliens and other creatures to reflect the foibles of humanity. We get to see ourselves in such a manner that it appears to be light entertainment but actually a point is being made on a much grander scale. One of the most powerful driving forces among most animals is the maternal instinct. The compulsion to protect and nourish offspring in order to ensure the continuation of the species can overwhelm even the natural instinct of self preservation. In this film a pair of genetic researchers Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) become surrogate parents to the end product of an illegal and highly dangerous experiment; a humanoid creature the name Dren (Delphine Chanéac). In a fashion similar to the lamentable Dr. Frankenstein Nicoli and Kast find they have played god by splice numerous strands of DNA together throwing part of the human genome into the mix. Initially the creature is a bit of a blob but soon, very soon, it grows increasingly human in appearance until it has the form of a beautiful woman albeit with a stinger tail and wings. The researchers become increasingly attached to Dren especially Kast who manifests a strong maternal attachment to it.
The role of the antagonist is interesting. It really isn’t the scientist although they are guilty of hubris, the pharmaceutical company funding the research should have instituted tighter oversight but then there wouldn’t be s movie. As in the case with all movies of this sub-genre the real villain is the misapplication of potentially beneficial new technology. The researcher just wanted to push the frontier of their field but in order to do so they flagrantly disregarded the checks and safeguards in place to avoid a mishap. The film works as a horror film because of the real world possibility of a genetic mishap. It is far more likely than some supernatural serial killer taking over your dreams and even if this level is not reached there is a nagging feeling in the back of your mind throughout the film that perhaps this could happen. The capping feature of the film lifting it above the soon to be dismembered teens cavorting in the woods is the cast. Brody is an Academy Award winner and Polley has an extremely successful career in independent films. Together they bring performances to these films that are far above the genre’s norm.
A Director's Playground: Vincenzo Natali On The Set Of Splice - Zoom In On The Innovative Filmmaker Of The Global Cult Sensation Cube As He And His Creative Team Explore New Motivating Territory